Time to break out the balloons and cake because this Saturday we will sing Happy Birthday World Wide Web. Our child is turning 20 so we will have to save the champagne for next year, but some savory green tea will have to serve. We have watched this creation from its infancy as it cried in the dial up modem to the quick, silent Wi-Fi wheels it cruises around town in today. In many ways, it has out grown most of us from its humble beginnings, but it is with pride and sadness we celebrate the memories.
The article tells of the Swarthmore College students who were the first to mainstream this burgeoning creation of wires and computers to share with the world. The World Wide Web had a name that would be hard to live up to. Imagine naming your child Jesus or James Dean or Michael Jordan. The child wouldn’t have a chance to have a private life or grow up normal. Soon irresponsible parenting would expose this once science and technology covert protected idea into a world phenomenon that everyone wanted a piece of. The child star turned into the newest form of exploitation from breaking down human mores to spying on our enemies and sometimes even our friends. In just 20 years, the World Wide Web has grown to touch everything and as it enters adulthood, we realize that we are at its whim now.
I first met the small baby in college in the form of email. Right from the start, I used this child to communicate with old girlfriends in an insidious manner. With my new email address and the one computer lab on campus, we had to sign in for only thirty-minute slots to take advantage of the child. It was not long before I was caught with my current girlfriend behind me typing away to a lost love I planned to see when I was home for Thanksgiving. The World Wide Web was dangerous. I learned that right away as it took flowers, gifts and groveling to explain my erroneous behavior.
The next episode is a couple of years later when I brought my first computer. It was larger than the desk I use today. It was an Apple and I brought it a sprawling Apple store that was as large as a football field. I soon had AOL with a phone modem. There were not many websites other than your internet provider’s and of course, you could not trust to buy anything over the internet. Like a growing child, it was inconsistent and gone often. I remember the chat boxes and the omnipresent “You Got Mail”. Mail that never included a message from my then ex-girlfriend.
Into the future I went with my first job. The World Wide Web allowed me to follow games as I worked as an editor. I made hours of overtime as my bosses thought I was diligently editing secret documents. Little did they know I was watching dots move around the screen with updates every five minutes with the score. I also learned that Wikipedia could teach you things that may or not be true and you could spend hours just finding things to be almost interesting. The World Wide Web had become a moneymaker for me as well as a way to gain information if you kept skepticism at bay. It was a huge help in forgetting my ex-girlfriend.
Now, the internet is an essential part of my business. I rely on this 20 year old for banking, relationships, creativity, memories, and news. Before I read the article on him today, I would have had a hard time remembering a time when he was not around. From fascination to pride to skepticism to constant companionship, World Wide Web is part of my life and I will celebrate it. It is also a great way to avoid my ex-girlfriend who eventually became my wife.
Next year, we are going on a bar crawl for you my friend.